The role of the posterior cerebellum in social cognition is well established; however, it is still unclear whether different cerebellar subregions contribute to different social cognitive processes by exerting specific functions. Here we employed transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) in male and female healthy humans to test the hypothesis of the existence of a medial-to-lateral gradient in the functional organization of the posterior cerebellum, according to which the phylogenetically newer cerebellar hemispheres are involved in tasks requiring higher-level social inferences whereas vermal/medial sectors are involved in basic perceptual emotional mechanisms. We found that interfering via TMS with activity of the medial cerebellum significantly impaired basic emotional recognition/discrimination. In turn, only TMS over the lateral cerebellum affected a task requiring recognizing an emotion considering the social context in which it was experienced. Overall, our data support the existence of a medial-to-lateral gradient in the posterior cerebellum, with medial sectors supporting basic emotion recognition and lateral sectors being recruited when the task taps on higher inferential processing/mentalizing. Interestingly, the contribution of the cerebellum in these different processes seems to be restricted to negative emotional stimuli.Significance Statement:The cerebellum has been recently recognized as a critical component of the social brain, however, the functional topography of this structure in relation to social and emotional processes is still debated. By adopting a causative approach through the use of transcranial magnetic stimulation, the present study critically insights into the functional organization of the posterior cerebellum by testing the hypothesis of a medial-to-lateral gradient that reflects increasing complexity of social cognitive processes. Our findings demonstrate that lateral and medial cerebellar regions exert partially distinguishable functions in the social cognitive domain, with the medial cerebellum that mainly mediates basic perceptual emotional mechanisms while the lateral cerebellum, although supporting more basic functions, further subserves higher-level social operations.

(2023). Functional segregation of the human cerebellum in social cognitive tasks revealed by TMS [journal article - articolo]. In THE JOURNAL OF NEUROSCIENCE. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10446/256429

Functional segregation of the human cerebellum in social cognitive tasks revealed by TMS

Arioli, Maria;Cattaneo, Zaira
2023-01-01

Abstract

The role of the posterior cerebellum in social cognition is well established; however, it is still unclear whether different cerebellar subregions contribute to different social cognitive processes by exerting specific functions. Here we employed transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) in male and female healthy humans to test the hypothesis of the existence of a medial-to-lateral gradient in the functional organization of the posterior cerebellum, according to which the phylogenetically newer cerebellar hemispheres are involved in tasks requiring higher-level social inferences whereas vermal/medial sectors are involved in basic perceptual emotional mechanisms. We found that interfering via TMS with activity of the medial cerebellum significantly impaired basic emotional recognition/discrimination. In turn, only TMS over the lateral cerebellum affected a task requiring recognizing an emotion considering the social context in which it was experienced. Overall, our data support the existence of a medial-to-lateral gradient in the posterior cerebellum, with medial sectors supporting basic emotion recognition and lateral sectors being recruited when the task taps on higher inferential processing/mentalizing. Interestingly, the contribution of the cerebellum in these different processes seems to be restricted to negative emotional stimuli.Significance Statement:The cerebellum has been recently recognized as a critical component of the social brain, however, the functional topography of this structure in relation to social and emotional processes is still debated. By adopting a causative approach through the use of transcranial magnetic stimulation, the present study critically insights into the functional organization of the posterior cerebellum by testing the hypothesis of a medial-to-lateral gradient that reflects increasing complexity of social cognitive processes. Our findings demonstrate that lateral and medial cerebellar regions exert partially distinguishable functions in the social cognitive domain, with the medial cerebellum that mainly mediates basic perceptual emotional mechanisms while the lateral cerebellum, although supporting more basic functions, further subserves higher-level social operations.
articolo
2023
Ferrari, Chiara; Ciricugno, Andrea; Arioli, Maria; Cattaneo, Zaira
(2023). Functional segregation of the human cerebellum in social cognitive tasks revealed by TMS [journal article - articolo]. In THE JOURNAL OF NEUROSCIENCE. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10446/256429
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